School volunteer Denise Alianell, of the Mays Landing section of Hamilton Township, listens to Gavin McCollister, 5, read books in a kindergarten class at the Joseph C. Shaner Elementary School in Mays Landing.

This is one in a series in which readers share why their local school is special. Today, Laurie Derringer, a kindergarten teacher at the Joseph C. Shaner School in Hamilton Township, writes about the role of parents in her school:

The Joseph C. Shaner School in Mays Landing is special for many reasons, but I am taking this opportunity to give a shout-out to our parent volunteers.

I have been teaching young learners for 15 years in the Hamilton Township School District. Over those years, I have been honored to have had more than 100 volunteers work in my classroom. They have cut, glued, stapled, collated and decorated. They have stuffed folders, book bags and Easter eggs. Most important, they have supported, encouraged and motivated my students.

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It brings a smile to my face to think of all the moms, dads (I love it when the dads volunteer), mom-moms, nanas and community members who have generously given their time to my students. Shaner School is a great place to be for many reasons, but our volunteers make an already special place extra special.

Thank you to all the volunteers past, present and future. You understand what it means when we say, “It takes a village!”

Compiled by Diane D’Amico

The Joseph C. Shaner School operates a parent-volunteer program coordinated by guidance counselor Dotsi Schoenstein. Principal Daniel Cartwright said 78 parents were participating this year at the school, which houses students in kindergarten and first grade.

Schoenstein holds an orientation for new parents each fall and works with them as they enroll, Cartwright said. Each teacher sets up a schedule based on how many parents are participating and when they can come in. There is a sign-in book and special pass for the volunteers, so the school can track who is in the building.

“We love having the parents come in,” Cartwright said. “It gives us an opportunity to get to know them better, and it helps them understand what goes on in the classroom every day, some of the challenges teachers face and how we address them.”

He said parents also operated the school store and came in to help during special events.

Derringer said she had five parents this year who each typically came in one day a week. She makes up a plan for what they will do, so when they come in they can get to work without disrupting classroom activities. Some days they might work with individual students, and other days they might sort crayons.

“Some children sometimes just need that little extra attention, whether it’s help tying their shoes or working out a tricky new word,” Derringer said. “And for new nervous moms, it’s a way for them to see that their child is doing OK in school.”

She said she also appreciated that the projects parents did in class was work she wouldn’t have to take home to complete, so she can spend more time with her own children.

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